Traditional Gefilte Fish Recipe

    September 2011          
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Gefilte Fish Recipe

Aviva Goldstein

There is probably no food that is considered 'Jewish' like the Gefilte Fish. It seems that every other joke ends with or contains some reference to it.

Every Ashkenazic Jew can seem to trace in his roots some meal that contains gefilte fish. There is no getting around it, if a person has never eaten gefilte fish, he is probably not Jewish.

There are many different ways to prepare gefilte fish. The Hungarians like their gefilte fish very sweet – too sweet for me. Others have mixed several types of fish to give a different taste. I have listed below a recipe that I have used successfully for years in my house for gefilte fish.

Most people like to serve gefilte fish with charain (horseradish sauce) but one of my sons-in-law likes it with techina! Even my husband who is not fond of fish likes to bury the gefilte fish in gobs of strong horseradish.

Many people have made it part of their Shabbat dinners, and even those who don't like to serve gefilte fish for their Yom Tov holiday meals. Some how by including gefilte fish in the meal plan, people feel more connected with their Jewish roots and the meal becomes more of a traditional meal.

I once heard, and I can not verify if it is true, that the reason that gefilte fish became so popular in Europe in the past several centuries was that there is a halachic problem with eating fish. What is that? On the Shabbat it is forbidden to 'separate' things into two groups by removing the undesired from the desired. When eating fish, a person must separate the fish from the bone. He is allowed to take the food from the bone, but not take the bone from the food. Since this is considered a very big sin, the rabbis encouraged eating gefilte fish since there is no problem of separating whereas by eating regular food one could come to sin. Whether this is true or not, I can not attest to, but I suggest that you ask your rabbi for the real halachic view.

Here is the recipe for the gefilte fish that I make. It is very popular in my house and I urge you to try it in yours.

Gefilte Fish Recipe

This is a two part recipe:

Part One: Fish Broth:

Make this broth first, boil it up, and then, afterwords, we will put our gefilte fish balls into the boiling broth:

2 carrots, peeled
3 onions, sliced
6-8 cups water
fish bones and heads (optional)
2 tsp, salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. sugar

Place everything into an 8 quart pot and boil, once it boils, lower flame and cook for a few more minutes.

Part Two: Gefilte Fish:

I go to the local fish store and purchase the fish and have the seller grind it for me, but you can grind it yourself. In either case be certain that when the fish is ground that no bones were ground up in it as well, or else, you will get a bony crunchy taste, and will come to think that maybe your tooth cracked, when it was really only the bones in the fish you ate!

2 pounds finely ground whitefish
1 pound finely ground pike fish
4 medium onions, grated
2 carrots, grated
2 stalks celery, grated
5 tsp. sugar
5 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Pepper
1/2 cup matzoh meal OR 2 slices dry challah bread grated, excluding the crust – I really prefer the challah. After grating the challah or matzoh into fine crumbs, soaked it in water for a few minutes until it becomes soft and soggy and then squeeze out the water, before using it to add to the mixture.
4 eggs, beaten (don't add to the bowl until all the other ingredients are mixed well)

Now mix all prepared ingredients together and then add beaten eggs. This can be done in food processor or mixing machine. Next use WET hands to shape the fish mixture into balls and then drop each ball gently into boiling broth. When dropping the gefilte fish balls in, leave space between balls so that they do not mush tightly together. After all the balls have been dropped in gently, lower flame, and cook covered on MEDIUM heat for approximately 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Check water level every half hour and adjust if necessary. Allow fish to cool before removing from pot.

Serve with horseradish sauce, mayonnaise or even (as my son-in-law prefers) with techina in a separate dish on the side. Many like to dress up the fish by putting a slice of a boiled carrot on top; it does look pretty.


from the September 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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